The line at the MFAH is stretching around the block. I'm not even inside yet, and already I'm nostalgic. Since November, the monthly "Starbucks Music Series at MFAH" (popularly, and more appropriately, we think, known as The Beats of Basquiat) has monopolized cool every four weeks, drawing together the best of Houston's hip-hop, indie, hipster and generally young-and-restless tribes. World class DJs have spun a party vibe that transformed the ground floor of the Caroline Wiess Law building into a nightclub, while cheap drinks flowed and patrons wandered around acting smug and pretentious - no, make that ironically smug and pretentious, sizing up art world rock star Jean-Michel Basquiat's works.
Knowing that tonight is the last night - with a set by Grandmaster Flash, no less -- has got me missing what has become a party staple. Since I'm rolling stag, the plan is to meet and impress as many beautiful girls as possible, and any girl at this party automatically rates high. But first I have to get my secret weapon inside, Law School Buddy.
Like everyone else who doesn't know someone (and hasn't dropped the $50 to join the museum), Law School Buddy is stuck in line in the 40-degree weather. Unlike those suckers, he's about to sneak in. The museum's security isn't set up to handle such a rush of people, so when he tosses a party flier onto a lanyard and strolls in, head up and looking important, it's smooth sailing.
Law School Buddy wasn't the only one to sneak in. With the line barely moving and security starting to turn away even stamped hands around 10:30, sneaking in becomes de rigueur. Upstairs I meet April, a walking testament to how to wear a lip ring and look classy, who explains how she got in. "My friend Googled 'secret museum entrances,'" she says. Genius. Their group took the tunnel under Main, not exactly a secret, but it took five minutes to get in and pay. All night long I hear similar tales.
At 9:30 the place is packed to the same level that the previous parties were at 11:30. We grab a drink before heading up to better ogle the beautiful art -- and to look at Basquiat's paintings. The key to sizing up art isn't to say something incisive, but to say something incisively.
Law School Buddy and I look at Untitled (Head), definitely my favorite work.
"That means cabeza in Spanish," I say. He nods.
I should mention at this point that LSB is, um, good-lookin'. Think of your favorite movie star/scientologist who hates Brooke Shields and occasionally feels the "need for speed." Yeah, him. That's LSB.
The bait is working, and I notice a cute brunette in plaid capris eavesdropping.
"So really, Gladwell is able to trace the explosion of Hush Puppies in the mid-'90s to a couple of scenesters in the East Village," I explain in my most professorial tone. She moves away, clearly impressed.
We work the room some more before heading back down into the crowd. I bump into an old coworker who's covered in sweat and grinning ear-to-ear. "Can you believe the drink prices?" he yells. "The lines are like communist bread lines, but I've had like 10 beers!" At two bucks a pop, the beers are extremely cheap for a Saturday night. The bathroom lines also stretch on for days, but fortunately, some kind souls have been using the stalls three at a time. Later I hear from a few people that security tossed out dozens of partygoers for being too messed up, on alcohol or otherwise, something that didn't happen nearly as often at previous events.
Grandmaster Flash is starting to make his way to the stage, and the whole place goes nuts. The wall projection reminds us that this is the man who literally invented turntablism. He makes us promise to shake our asses like it's the last night on earth, and as he drops his first track, we keep up our end of the promise. This is where things begin to get weird.
I walk to the bar only to lose Law School Buddy behind me. He bounds up a few minutes later, grinning, and flashes his cell phone at me: "Sara MFA 8.5."
"This girl just started making out with me. I tried to go past her and I smiled and then kind of touched her hand, and she just kissed me," he says. At the same moment one of LSB's friends invites him out for a cigarette. So while he goes to cop some cancer I start watching a couple of drunk (yet cute) girls stumble around the dance floor. They're pulling numbers off guys left and right, having a good time, when the Asian one strolls over and asks for mine.
"I saw you taking down those other guys' numbers," I flirt. "I don't feel special."
"No baby, only you," she says, rubbing her hand over my crotch. Suddenly, I believe her. I give out the digits, and she squeezes my ass a few more times. Am I in a museum? This girl belongs at ToC Bar. Someone needs to check Flash's albums for slut-bliminal messages.
While I stand there slack-jawed, Law School Buddy comes back.
"I made out with another girl," he says and flashes his phone, "Jessica MFA 8.0." We're both kind of confused. Somehow the predator has become the prey.
"What is it with museum chicks?" LSB asks. Something weird is going on. Is the extra lighting making girls more confident? Is the word spreading about my cabeza analysis?
We head upstairs to escape the heat and scope the party. Flash's set is fairly mediocre from a turntable point of view, but he's obviously keeping a great party going.
"I'm looking for Sara," he says.
"You can't remember what she looks like," I remind him.
"I remember her shoulder."
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While he scours the crowd of thousands for the distinctive shoulder, I get a tap on my own. A younger girl in a pastel sweater wants to take a picture with me. Sure, why not? They get the picture and leave. Law School Buddy looks at me confused. I shake my head. "No idea. That's probably going on her MySpace."
We're starting to get freaked out since in the course of an hour we've been approached by more women than on any other night ever. We decide to bounce to one of the myriad official and unofficial after-parties. Just as we turn to head out, there's a tap on LSB's shoulder.
"Hey guys, my friends wanted me to come over..."
If you insist. Thank you, Grandmaster Flash. Thank you, MFAH. And thank you, Starbucks. Let's do this again. It was great meeting you. I'll call you. "Beats of Basquiat MFA 9.5."